Sunday, March 4, 2018

‘Russia Needs Show Trials’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 4 – The Putin regime is reviving a great deal from the Soviet past, Mikhail Polyakov says, so much that “it sometimes seems that some colossal time machine has returned the country to 1935.”  But so far it has not brought back “certain effective methods” like “show trials.”

            In a comment for Plubizist portal, the Russian blogger says that “in Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s times, such trials were one of the most powerful tools of propaganda and the confessions of the accused had “the most powerful psychological impact” on the Soviet population and the world (

            “What a wonderful practice!” Polyakov says with admiration. Just imagine how effectively it could be used against those involved with corruption. A quick and widely covered trial in which the accused would confess and then punishment meted out at the demand of the population. 

            There could be “dozens” of such trials throughout the country so that they would appear “in each television news broadcast.” They would need to be held “in enormous halls” or even “in stadium so that people could go to the show.”  Think of the message it would send not only to the corrupt but to the entire Russian people!

            Today, the blogger says, “there is one serious obstacle to all this.” Those who involved in corruption in Russia immediately appeal to their friends in power and thus get off.  They wouldn’t like being exposed by show trials. But that only means that such procedures could be even more useful.

            Whether this action will gain any traction in the Kremlin is uncertain, but at the end of last week, one more revival of the Soviet past in Putin’s Russia arose: the Ministry of Culture has proposed giving theaters the right to show Soviet films without having to pay any royalties, thus guaranteeing them a profit and the regime the right message (

            But sometimes this focus on the Soviet past has consequences the current regime can’t possibly want: It leads Russians to draw comparisons not between the regime’s favored heroes from that period but from those whom it is most critical of. Often, Russians draw comparisons between Putin and Gorbachev in that both seem to be putting the survival of the country at risk.

            A more immediate and interesting comparison, however, is offered by pensioner Nikolay Travkin who says that when he listens to the Russian president speak, he is thrown back to his childhood.  “I look at Putin, and I hear either Khrushchev or Brezhnev,” neither of whom is in Putin’s pantheon of Soviet greats (

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